By Ernie Reyes
MANILA — Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon lamented the measly funding set aside under the P5 trillion proposed 2022 national budget to assist thousands of distressed small and medium enterprises affected by the continuing pandemic.
Drilon described as measly the P3.45 billion that the government has allocated for the MSME Development Program of the Department of Trade and Industry as against the P28 billion allocation for anti-insurgency lodged in the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).
“This is such a small amount especially when we look at the NTF-ELCAC of P28 billion. The skewed priorities are so clear. I hope they can consider this. We should be able to support SMEs especially when they are struggling. Marami na pong nagsasara sa kanila,” Drilon said.
Drilon stressed that the backbone of the Philippine economy employs 63% of our workforce.
“Yet, we only allocate P3.45 billion as against P28 billion for NTF-ELCAC. What kind of prioritization is that?” Drilon lamented. The MSME Development Program is an existing program of the DTI, not a new program specifically designed to provide stimulus to struggling MSMEs. In 2018, it was allocated P2.246 billion. Three years and a pandemic later, we are only allocating P1.2 billion more for our MSMEs. The budget is clearly out of touch with our country’s current situation.
“Our MSMEs, which employ 63% of our country’s workforce, are currently struggling and are in danger of folding given the successive lockdowns. We should provide adequate support to them,” Drilon said.
The Senate chief fiscalizer said the budget should provide for economic aid, saying it is necessary considering that about 4 million Filipinos continue to be unemployed, and according to an SWS survey, about 3.4 million families went hungry as recently as June 2021.
“Trillions of pesos are being borrowed each year and yet the government has only allocated P3.45 billion for the sector that has lifted our economy for decades. I don’t think that is proportionate to their contribution to our economy,” Drilon said.
The minority leader, who has been scrutinizing the country’s expenditures for 23 years, appealed to the committee to augment the assistance to SMEs. (ai/mtvn)